Voting members of the Area Planning Advisory Committee, which studies land use projects and gives recommendations to the El Dorado County Planning Commission, voted against the project last Wednesday night and encouraged the Planning Commission to do the same. Planning commissioners received a project presentation last Thursday but did not vote.
The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors will ultimately vote to approve or deny the El Dorado Hills Apartments project, which needs a General Plan amendment since the project calls for 47 dwelling units per acre. The parcel’s current General Plan land use designation allows a maximum of 24. When the project was first proposed in 2014 developers designed it with 56 units per acre. The four-story luxury apartment complex is 15 percent less dense today, with 214 units, ranging from studio to one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.
Representatives from developer Spanos Corporation spoke at an APAC meeting last Wednesday night inside El Dorado Hills Fire Station 85 ahead of the vote. The project would consist of two, four-story apartment buildings, outdoor recreation areas and an informal open space area. There would also be a five-story parking structure that would house 411 enclosed parking spaces for residents, 22 motorcycle spaces and 54 guest spaces.
Spanos Corp. Division Manager Jeff Morgan said, “We went back to the drawing board. We believe in this project.” He described it as “Old World architecture,” blending in with Town Center’s aesthetics.
As in 2014 it was described as an ideal place for empty nesters and young professionals — “A lifestyle by choice, that is maintenance free with amenities,” Morgan explained.
Morgan, citing a change in the market since 2014, declined to share expected rents, only saying, “Rents would be competitive.”
Three years ago Spanos Corp. officials said rents would range between $1,600 to $2,200 per month.
El Dorado Hills resident John Davey read a committee report of non-support written by El Dorado Hills Community Council members who extensively studied the project. The first concern was that the project would “nearly double the density under the General Plan,” Davey said. “This would set a precedent.”
Davey said the committee was also concerned about traffic. Several residents in the audience Wednesday night asked questions, uneasy that 54 guest spots wouldn’t be enough and would impact the already limited parking in Town Center.
Morgan said the development company “used historical data” to determine how many guest spaces are needed. “It’s a substantial number,” he added. “This parking ratio works well in our other communities.” When asked, Morgan said Spanos does not have a similar project in the greater Sacramento area but has many across the country.
Davey read the next concern, regarding whether the project would “revitalize” Town Center as a place where people would live, work and play. “We don’t buy the argument,” he said. “There is no job center here. People who live in the complex would most likely be commuting to Sacramento or somewhere else to work.”
Davey continued that the complex “doesn’t address our affordable housing issue” in El Dorado Hills, adding, “This isn’t it. Luxury and affordable are at odds.”
There were also concerns about noise and the potential loss of community events, such as the Santa Run, fireworks, concerts and farmers market.
“How will this benefit the community?” Davey read from the report. A hotel was once planned for the vacant lot, but with this plan, “Transient Occupancy Taxes would continue going to Folsom.”
While Davey, and then APAC members, thanked Spanos representatives for working on reducing density and for coming to the meeting, he ended by saying, “We don’t believe this project is the cure-all for the ails of Town Center.”
Voting members of APAC agreed. At the end of the meeting they voted 7-0 against approval of the project, citing traffic as their “biggest issue.”